Bringing missing persons home


Mollie Tibbetts’ recent disappearance generated not only interest in her case, but also on the issue of missing people in general.

It’s especially placed a spotlight on cases involving children.

Local Four and Fox 18 News are digging deeper into the annual reports from the Missing Persons Clearinghouse in Iowa and Illinois.

Iowa’s numbers for the fiscal year of 2018, which goes through June 2018, report 5,844 missing children.

That is an increase of about 1,500 from the annual report released in 2012.

Iowa considers almost 99 percent of those missing children cases as unspecified and of the categories the state uses to list the reports, unspecified would include runaways.

In Illinois, there were 19,728 reports in 2017.

That’s a decrease of about 7,000 from 2012.

For Illinois, a little more than 50 percent of reported cases fall into runaway categories. 

For the Cities Missing Persons Network, when it comes to what cases they work, it’s consistent with what they see.

Quad Cities Missing Persons Network Director Dennis Harker said, “We deal with a lot of runaways ourselves, and that’s the majority of teenagers that disappear are runaways.”

Director of the Quad Cities Missing Persons Network Director Dennis Harker said they could average about one child runaway case each week.
They provide assistance to families on a police reported missing person case by helping to give the search more exposure on social media.

Harker said, “Awareness of missing persons cases through social media has grown tremendously in the last few years.”

Harker said the majority of cases are resolved with children found safe with a friend or another family member.
That’s consistent with the Missing Persons Clearinghouse annual reports in Iowa and Illinois.
The Illinois report goes into more depth, with data pointing to a nearly 97 percent clearance of cases in 2017.
Of the about 600 missing children last year in Rock Island County, only six remain unsolved as of this June.
For Harker, when he’s reviewed numbers from past years, the trend often goes in waves.

Harker said, “Few years in there where wow a large number of people when missing and they’re still missing, and then there will be a few years where there’s nobody, you know, everybody that’s gone missing has been found.”

Looking more closely at the Quad Cities, Rock Island County cases were up about 250 reports last year compared to 2012, but in the same period, Scott County was down about 200 for the 2018 fiscal year with about 260 reports.

For Harker, he believes different factors like the economy and efforts can impact the number of reports. 

Harker said, “I think it’s a situation where we have better oversight through the schools, through the different programs that are available. The anti-bullying programs.”

Harker said as this topic gets more attention, it’s important for parents and families to talk with kids including on how to stay safe.

He added, when a child goes missing, the first step is to call local police and start a report.

Iowa’s Missing Persons Clearinghouse keeps an updated list of active cases.

Local 4 and Fox 18 tallied those numbers on Aug. 3 for July 2018.

There were currently about 40 open cases, and six were from the east-central part of Iowa. 

There are also resources out there specializing in missing person cases.

NamUs is primarily focused on cold cases of missing people.

Let’s Bring Them Home

National Runaway SafeLine

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children


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